Follow TV Tropes


Code Name

Go To

"'Sabretooth'? 'Storm'. 'Cyclops'. And what do they call you? 'Wheels'? This is the stupidest thing I've ever heard."

In order to protect one's identity, or discuss a 'Top Secret' mission over a static-y radio, a Superhero, International Spy, or military operation, etc. will use a Code Name. For costumed heroes in particular, this Nom de Guerre will be indicative of their powers, origin, or national affiliation. Spies, missions, and objects will usually have a randomly assigned alias (and in comedies, silly ones at that). Often, it's so descriptive as to defeat the very purpose of not using their real name, since Iron Bear really could only be one guy.


A common way of parodying it is a character with a stupid or silly codename who complains that, when the time came to choose theirs, all the good ones were taken. Frequently they claim it was a choice between their current codename or something far worse.

Common code name styles include:

The Token Minority may fall victim to a having a Captain Ethnic Codename; for decades, almost all black superheroes had names with the word "Black" somewhere in them.


Military ranks, noble titles and other honorifics are occasionally incorporated into a Codename, as is the case in Captain America and Doctor Fate. Closely related to Nom de Guerre, which would be when they use the name all the time, and not just "out in public". Reporting Names are essentially Code Names for enemy equipment, especially when the real name is unknown or impossible to pronounce in your own language.

The trope started going out of fashion somewhat, as evidenced by the fact that Comic-Book Movies Don't Use Codenames. Though the latter usage remains popular in Spy Fiction.



    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Choujin Sensen: Each player gets their own title placed next to their names (i.e. "Telekinetic" Tomobiki Rinji VS "Sniper" Baron Saijou)
  • Every Contractor and Doll in Darker Than Black is like this, with code names ranging from Chinese color and descriptive names for the main characters (Hei, Yin, and Mao) to month-based ones for the team of British agents (November 11, April, and July), to descriptive nicknames (A portly female contractor who has weaponized screaming is called Bertha). There's also a Woolseyism in the dub, as April refers to November 11 as "one-one", underscoring his James Bond similarities (i.e. he's Agent 1-1-1)
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • All the state alchemists have code names... which may function more like titles, since any random person off the street seems to know, say, that the Fullmetal Alchemist is Edward Elric. Except when they think it's Alphonse.
    • Colonel Mustang gives his (male) subordinates women's names when on the phone. He's shown having flirty phone calls with the only actual female in the group, who uses an alias, and they use women's names to refer to the male operatives as though she's a shopkeeper and the men are women who work for her. It's such an effective way of encoding the messages that the office workers simply think he spends all day flirting.
  • In Hetalia: Axis Powers, some of the characters have human names. However, these were the creator bending to fan insistence, rather than that he actually wanted to include them (which is displayed in that not only are the names picked with little care, but that they never appear in the series and were deleted from the author's blog).
  • In Cyborg 009, the nine Cyborgs are given codenames when transformed into living weapons.
  • One Piece:
    • The Baroque Works conspiracy deployed its agents in man-woman teams, with the men codenamed "Mister $NUMBER" and the women called "Miss $DAY_REFERENCE". The shapeshifting crossdresser of the organization worked without a partner and used both naming schemes: "Mister 2 Bon Clay".
    • There's also Sanji's Mr Prince. It turns out that he's an actual prince.
    • In the Marines, anyone promoted to the rank of Admiral is given a code name consisting of a color and an animal, with the animals all being references to the tale of Momotaro. At the start of the manga, the three Admirals are Kizaru ("Yellow Monkey", real name Borsalino), Aokiji ("Blue Pheasant", real name Kuzan) and Akainu ("Red Dog", real name Sakazuki). Fujitora ("Wisteria Tiger", real name Issho) and Ryokugyu ("Green Bull", real name unknown) are added later to account for Sakazuki being promoted and Kuzan resigning from the Marines.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam 00, most members of Celestial Being have codenames. For example, Setsuna F. Seiei's real name is Soran Ebrahim, while Lockon Stratos is initially Neil Dylandy and later Lyle Dylandy.
  • Heero Yuy of Mobile Suit Gundam Wing is also a code name; his real name is never revealed. He briefly borrows Duo Maxwell's name at one point, when his original code name would have attracted attention.
  • In G Gundam, the members of the original Shuffle Alliance are only referred to by their card-themed codenames (King of Hearts, Ace of Clubs, Queen of Spades, Jack of Diamonds and Black Joker, although the protagonist already owns the first title). Likewise, the sidestory manga G Gundam: Fight 7th reveals their real names by showing them as Gundam Fighters representing Japan, America, China, France, and Russia. Yes, that means the manga gives a real name to Touhou Fuhai Master Asia. It's Shuji Kurosu.
  • Death Note;
    • L has a variety of codenames: L, Ryuzaki, Ryuuga Hideki, Eraldo Coil, and Deneuve. Although it turns out "L" is his actual first name.
    • The children at Wammy's House have got codenames too, such as Near, Matt and Mello. Older generations of Wammy's have had them too.
    • L's regular foot soldiers all seem to use code names as well - specifically, Watari, Aiber and Wedy.
    • The policemen in the task force are also assigned; this is quietly dropped (with a brief resurgence when Matsuda finds himself in a room full of Kira conspirators), presumably because the main villain knows all their real names already, but deems them Not Worth Killing. (The SPK members, while certainly worth killing in Light's book, use their aliases a lot more consistently).
    • When the Cult of Kira takes over the world, and people start "doxxing" their enemies to Kira, people begin to go by codenames as a matter of course. Even husbands and wives don't know each other's real names, which shows just how much of a Crapsack World Kira's New World Order is, that no one can trust anyone else, even members of their own families.
  • In Project A-ko, Operative DC-138621-S113 goes by Codename "D".
  • Fushigi Yuugi subverts, averts and plays the trope straight. Each Seishi is alternatively known by the constellation he or she is born under, and in some cases (particularly the Suzaku Seven), the Seishi's name fits his or her personality and powers precisely. However, the Seishi's code names can hardly be used to disguise them, seeing as all of them either know how to read kanji, have studied astronomy or both. In fact, their real names are hardly spoken among one another, and some of them go by their code names for most of their lives.
  • The four Warlords from Ronin Warriors were given code names by Talpa that correspond with their armors. This is subverted in the dub.
  • A Certain Magical Index:
    • Accelerator is known only by this, as well as Last Order and Index. Sometimes Misaka is called Railgun like a code name, and Touma is called Imagine Breaker once or twice.
    • From the same series many of the magicians (and those associated with the magic side in general) have a Sorcery Name. Index is Dedicatus 545, Stiyl Magnus is Fortis 931, Kanzaki Kaori is Salvare 000 and Tsuchimikado is Fallere 825.
  • Detective Conan. Members of the Black Organization are known by the names of alcoholic beverages: Gin, Vodka, Vermouth, Kir, Chianti, Korn, Bourbon, and so forth. Only Kir, Vermouth and Bourbon have their real names revealed so far, in order: Hidemi Hondo, Sharon Vineyard and Tooru Amuro.
  • The Kirihara Group of The SoulTaker gives code names to all mutants except Runa. The title character's code name, SoulTaker, is not his own creation but theirs.
  • Read or Die has Yomiko Readman, The Paper.
  • The Big Bad Ensemble of the Chapter Black saga in Yu Yu Hakusho consists of seven espers who, interestingly, present themselves with both their codenames and real names: Minoru Kamiya a.k.a. Doctor, Kiyoshi Mitarai a.k.a. Seaman, Kaname Hagiri a.k.a. Sniper, Tsukihito Amanuma a.k.a. Gamemaster, Sadao Makihara a.k.a. Gourmet, Itsuki a.k.a. Gatekeeper, and Shinobu Sensui a.k.a. Black Angel.
  • The members of Oracion Seis from Fairy Tail each use a codename based on their magic, abilities, and attributes. While most are played straight, some of their names' meanings are actually subverted, as they try to appear more powerful or intimidating than they really are.
    • Brain is The Leader of the group, as well as an Evil Genius.
    • Cobra keeps a giant venomous snake (incidentally not a cobra) to fight for him. He's also a Poison Dragon Slayer.
    • Racer can move faster than the human eye. Or so it would appear; he really just slows others' perception of time to make himself seem fast.
    • Hoteye can see through solid objects.
    • Angel dresses like an angel because she wants to become one, and later learns how to summon angels.
    • Midnight transforms into a giant monster at midnight. Subverted when it turns out he's actually an illusionist.
  • In the French and certain European Dragon Ball Z dubs, the members of the Ginyu Force announce what kind of "forces" they each represent instead of their names. Only Ginyu and Jeice get to be called by their actual names (although Ginyu is consistently pronounced as the French "Jineu") near the end of their saga, when suddenly everyone starts knowing what they're called. These supposed code names are:
    • Recoome: Absolute Force
    • Burter: Infernal Force
    • Jeice: Pure Force
    • Guldo: Animal/Feral Force
    • Ginyu: Evil Force
  • World Conquest Zvezda Plot:
    • The organization Zvezda has: Kate Hoshimiya - Lady Venera, Asuta Jimon - Dva, Itsuka Shikabane - Lady Plamya, Natalia "Natasha" Vasylchenko - Professor Um, Yasubee "Yasu" Morozumi - Odin, and Goro Shikabane - General Pepel. Roboko is a sentient robot and keeps her name.
    • The organization White Light has: Renge Komadori - White Robin, Miki Shirasagi - White Egret, and Kaori Hayabusa - White Falcon.
  • In Date A Live, organizations like the AST assign code names to the various spirits they track and try to kill or contain, though the spirits don't use these names themselves, and the organizations continue to refer to them by these names even if they learn their real names. Tohka Yatogami is "Princess", Yoshino is "Hermit", Kurumi Tokisaki is "Nightmare", Kotori Itsuki is "Efreet", the twins Kaguya and Yuzuru Yamai are both called "Berserk", Miku Izayoi is "Diva", Natsume is "Witch", Origami Tobiichi is "Angel", Rinne Sonogami is "Ruler", and a mysterious being who turns humans into spirits is called "Phantom".
  • Variable Geo: The "Black Goddess" project is the means by which The Jahana Group intends to resurrect their leader, Miranda Jahana, which is the crux of the series' plot. To achieve their goal, they need to find a suitably powerful host body for her disembodied spirit to inhabit and they've found the perfect candidate: Satomi Yajima.
  • In My Hero Academia, most professional heroes operate under code names, even though few of them actually have a Secret Identity. At the start of the Hero Killer Arc, the students of Class 1-A are told to select their hero names. Shoto Todoroki opts to simply use his first name, and Katsuki Bakugo's ends up in the same position by default due to his choice of "Explosion Murder King" being vetoed by the teacher for being more like a villain name.
  • In Sword Art Online, almost everyone uses one, which protects their real life identity. Averted by Asuna, who, being an MMORPG noob, used her real name as her screen name.

    Comic Books 
  • S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents go by numerical designations that actually convey rank within the organization. Best example would be Sharon Carter a.k.a. Agent 13.
  • The comics from which the page quote movie is derived use this just as extensively, if not more.
  • Before she became the superhero Ms. Marvel/Binary/Warbird/Captain Marvel (she changes her superhero name almost as often as Hank Pym), Carol Danvers was a fighter pilot with the code name "Cheeseburger", because she'd vomited at one point after lunch. She specifically points out that you just don't get the awesome names outside of movies.
  • Green Lantern. Hal Jordan's call sign is "Highball". Jillian Pearlman's, a co-pilot, girlfriend and Star Sapphire, is "Cowgirl" because of her Texas accent and cowboy hat.
  • Runaways:
    • The teens initially had codenames, but they were abandoned after a while. Which makes perfect sense, since one would expect a bunch of kids to a) come up with 'cool" sounding code names for themselves and b) get bored with them fairly quickly.
    • The "Canon Fodder" story arc in Rainbow Rowell's Runaways had the teens decide to become superheroes for real by taking up the legacy of the J-Team. With the exception of Gert Yorkes (who was held back from getting a costume by Doc Justice), all of them took up the codenames of former J-Team members, with Victor Mancha becoming Kid Justice, Nico Minoru becoming the Gloom, Karolina Dean becoming Princess Justice, Molly Hayes becoming Blue-J, and Chase Stein becoming Gun Arm.
  • In 100 Bullets, every member of the Minutemen has one: the Wolf, the Dog, the Bastard, the Rain, the Point Man, the Monster, the Saint, the Boy, and the Girl.
  • Except for Adam, the core cast of ClanDestine have these. Rory (The Crimson Crusader) and Pandora (Imp) picked theirs out when they started to play superhero; they decided to call Walter "Wallop" partly as a pun on his name and partly because it was a fair description of his powers. "Cuckoo" was Kay's family nickname, and "Hex" was Domenic's stage name when he worked as an Escape Artist. (No explanation for Samantha's "Argent," although presumably it's a poetic description of her silvery armor.)
  • In Marvel Comics' The New Universe the "DP7" group on the run from the sanatorium they were being held in tried using code names, but after they set them up nobody ever used them except "Skuzz," whose power was an acidic exudate coming out of his pours making anything he touches disintegrate in a few minutes. And that was his nickname before he got his powers.
  • Crusader, a Skrull infiltrator who decided he like humans better than Skrulls and became a superhero, went out of his way to chose a code name that describes nothing about his origin, personality, or especially powers. He advised Curtis Doyle, a rookie hero who'd picked up a "Cosmic Ring", to do the same. The kid ignores the advice and calls himself Freedom Ring. Freedom Ring later gets killed after specifically calling attention to the source of his powers, leading to the villain of the story cutting off his finger to depower him.
  • Played with in Red Hood And The Out Laws: they have them, but generally use their real ones.
  • Power Pack used them out in public. Originally, Alex was Gee, Jack was Mass Master,Julie was Lightspeed,and Katie was Energizer. Later, the powers changed kids after getting transferred to a Super-Snark for a time, Alex was Destroyer, Jack was Zero-G, Katie was Counterweight,and Julie was Molecula. Franklin Richards was Tattletale when he joined the group.
  • Starfox, an Avenger from the '80s, was given his codename because the president found his real name (Eros) to be "too provocative." The Wasp gave him the name Starfox because he's "a foxy guy" who's "from the stars."
  • The superhero incarnation of Gwen Stacy originally went by Spider-Woman, then changed it to Spider-Gwen, which caused obvious problems. She eventually adopted the name "Ghost Spider", which originated as a nickname given to her by Miles Morales during the climax of Spider-Geddon.
  • The Umbrella Academy has the titular academy members, each of whom have several names.
    • Luther Hargreeves/Number One/Spaceboy, given the last name because he was the first boy in space.
    • Diego Hargreeves/Number Two/The Kraken, whose last codename is a mystery to most readers.
    • Allison Hargreeves/Number Three/The Rumor, given the last name because her powers are triggered by the phrase "I heard a rumor".
    • Klaus Hargreeves/Number Four/The Seance, given the last name because he can see ghosts.
    • Number Five/The Boy.
    • Ben Hargreeves/Number Six/The Horror, given the last name because of the eldritch tentacles he can summon from another dimension via a portal in his chest.
    • Vanya Hargreeves/Number Seven/ The White Violin, given the last by the evil Conductor who transformed her into a supervillain who wears a white suit and plays a white violin in order to end the world.

    Fan Works 
  • Date A Re:Live follows the example from its above-mentioned source material and goes beyond that such as there being code names for the other inverse forms, besides Origami whose inverse code name is still Devil, such as Sovereign for Tohka Sorceress for Natsumi and new ones created for extracanonical spirits such as Watcher for Mayuri from ''Judgement and Matrix for Marina Arusu. But in the case of Rio Sonogami, she is the one who holds the codename and role of Phantom as the Spirit passing down Sephira Crystals.
  • The Headhunt stylizes code words for classified data similarly to The Laundry Files: Three all-caps words that, out-of-universe, refer to the contents. ICARIAN BRIGHT GEPPETTO is the code word for the files on Lore, and refer obliquely to his and Data's creator Noonien Soong whom Lore murdered: "icarian" is an Icarus Allusion, and "Geppetto" was the toymaker in Pinocchio.
  • The New Adventures of Invader Zim has the canonical examples of Swollen Eyeball members referring to themselves with Agent codenames. Additionally, Dib's new friends Steve and Viera are members, and given the codenames "Agent Silverfish" and "Agent Silver Sparrow", respectfully. Later on, Dib and his friends coin the name "Team Save Earth" for their group.
  • The Guardians in The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World hang code names on their recruits, often with creative spelling (e.g., Spectrem, Lee Ayson, Phlaym). They only bother with one of the four, though—Starr.
  • In A Gem of a Day, during their attempt to steal back Rarity's dress design from Suri, Rarity assigns these to herself and Applejack: Platinum Priss and Barn Raiser, respectfully, with her constantly telling Applejack to refer to her as such during the break in. Upon being arrested, Applejack called Rarity 'Platinum Priss' to annoy her.
  • The Pieces Lie Where They Fell: In its sequel Picking Up the Pieces, the Hidden Guard have these for each of the Bearers. Those used in-story, as of chapter 10, are "Bad Driver" (for Vix-Lei) and "Drunk" (Wind Breaker). The other four are revealed in chapter 15: Grumpy (for Night Blade), The Librarian (Page), Doggy (Rex) and Thief (Xvital). Memorizing Gaze notes that they had to come up with them in a hurry and that they'll probably have to change all of them at some point (except for Page's, since hers is the only one that won't annoy the designee) if they can come up with better ones. He also mentions that one of his Guards suggested "Voofer" for Rex's codename but was overruled due to Memorizing himself thinking it sounded absurd.
  • Borrowing from its inspiration, the Persona 5 Adult Confidant AU has the Phanom Thieves make up codenames for themselves. In order, there's Boss (Sojiro), Gecko (Iwai), Madame (Kawakami), Scout (Ohya), Doc (Tae), Titan (Toranosuke), Sibyl (Chihaya), Ace (Sae), Swan (Shido), and Rook (Maruki).
  • For The Glory Of Irk reveals that "Red" and "Purple" aren't the real names of the Tallest (who are actually named Voel and Therron, respectfully). They're called that instead because it's tradition for Irkens to take new names when they're enthroned as Tallest. When Xia and Vero become Tallest after Voel and Therron are forced on the run by the Control Brains, they take the new names "X" and "V", respectfully.
  • The Price of Flight deals with the Ankh Morpork City Air Watch, who when necessary become a more martial Air Force. Given a Magitek version of radio co-ordinated from a central control and command system, the Air Witches adopt callsign names. These inevitably become a Nom de Guerre even when not on active service. Examples include Syren, Vorona, Snegurochka, Mother Hen, Stormy Petrel. Firebird, Red Star, Parrot, Death of Broomsticks and Penguin.
  • In This Bites!, the leaders of the New World Masons use Zodiac names as callsigns during their conversations, with the pirate captains using the Eastern Zodiac and the Marine members using the Western Zodiac. Meanwhile, the Straw Hats who are part of the core instead use the names of snakes — partly because Cross was already using the name Ophiuchus (the Snake that is the unofficial thirteenth Western Zodiac sign) as his name when first setting things up with the Marine members, and partly as an in-universe Shout-Out to Kill Bill.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Top Gun, the various characters go by their callsigns most of the time, and those are the names most fans remember. After all, Maverick is just cool. Pete Mitchell, not so much. And who would want to be Tom Kazansky or Mike Metcalf when they could be Iceman or Viper?
  • In Hudson Hawk, the CIA agents are called Snickers, Kit Kat, Butterfinger and Almond Joy. Butterfinger is fittingly clumsy.
    Almond Joy: Almond Joy. Get it? Candy bars. Well, it's better than when we first started out. Our code names were diseases. Do you know what it's like being called Chlamydia for a year?
  • The Taking of Pelham One Two Three features crooks in a train heist who use color-themed codenames to protect their identities.
  • Reservoir Dogs was probably inspired by Pelham, using color-themed codenames for a group of crooks. The heist boss assigns them the names Mr. White, Mr. Blonde, Mr. Blue, Mr. Brown, Mr. Orange and Mr. Pink. The crook dubbed Mr. Pink tries to object, but the boss insists on picking the names himself. He mentions having allowed crooks on a past job to name themselves and it resulted in a fight over who got to be Mr. Black. In fact, each Codename fits the character perfectly. Mr. White is the most moral of the group. Mr. Blonde is in it purely For the Evulz. Mr Orange has his outer layers peeled off throughout the film. Mr. Pink survives the film by hiding, something considered effeminate. Mr. Blue gets captured by the police, i.e. "The Boys in Blue." We don't really see much of Brown, though.
  • Used cleverly in the Clue movie. Since the boardgame characters name are reference to the color of their game piece, the film has the names being codenames so the people attending the dinner remain anonymous — Mr. Green, Prof. Plum, Colonel Mustard, Mrs. Scarlet, Mrs. Peacock, Mrs. White, Wadsworth the Butler. It's not clear if Mr. Boddy or Yvette the French Maid are a pseudonym. In a touch of irony, unlike the board game, none of the characters wear the color they represent in the game — Mrs. Scarlet and Mr. Green wear blue while Mrs. White wears all black, Colonel Mustard and Prof. Plum wear brown and Mrs. Peacock wears gold.
  • In Kill Bill, the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad has five members named after lethal snakes: Black Mamba, Copperhead, Cottonmouth, Sidewinder and California Mountain Snake. Bill himself is the Snake Charmer. Ironically, Vivica Fox's character escapes being the one called "Black Mamba", and then complains about it. The main character herself is called the Bride until the second film.
  • The Zucker Brothers' film Top Secret! featured members of the French Resistance with a set of bizarre French code names - one group has French phrases for names, including Détente, Avant Garde and Déjà Vu (who asks the protagonist if they've met before), while another has food names, including Soufflé, Croissant, the Token Minority character Chocolate Mousse, and the frequent Almost Dead Guy Latrine.
  • In Sky High (2005), students in the Sidekick program are not allowed to have code names. Upon graduation, they are paired with a hero who gives them a name and costume (presumably to avoid clashing). However, three students in the "Hero" program apparently have code names: Hothead (Warren Peace), which seems assigned on the spot by the gym coach, Sonic Boom, and Lash and Speed, which might have just been regular high school nicknames, possibly self-assigned. Others in the "Hero" classes go by their names (Will, Gwen, & Penny).
  • Nikita's codename in both the movie and the TV show is "Josephine".
  • Hot Shots!:
    • All of the pilots in the various movies have humorous call signs from the faintly ridiculous "Topper" Harley to the hilariously appropriate "Dead Meat" and "Washout" ("washout" being US military slang for someone who fails flight school).
    • There's also the enemy pilots' call signs in the first film all being types of food.
  • Shown correctly in, of all things, Flight of the Intruder, in which one new pilot is given the callsign "Razor" because he'd missed a bit while shaving the morning they were doling out names. Reverting back to trope, he later became Straight Razor "because you've become a real weapon, kid". Sheesh. In the book the movie was based on, Razor's callsign was because he was the only pilot in the squadron with a mustache. In the movie, the mustache was given to "Tiger" Cole.
  • In Raising Arizona, Gale snaps at Evelle for constantly dropping his name during a bank robbery. After an awkward pause, Evelle suggests that "Gale" is actually his code name, and Gale weakly tries to back up his ruse.
  • X-Men Film Series
    • In the page quote from X-Men, Wolverine ridicules the fact that they have code names, which is some Hypocritical Humor on his part, as he has one, too.
    • In X-Men: First Class, the ridiculous codenames given to the characters which have nothing to do with anonymity (as demonstrated by them using them for each other in the most mundane of situations) that give rise to the page quote are explained as a result of precedent established by teenagers in over their heads in the CIA.
  • "Eagle" and "Sparrow" are Clarisse and Mia's Code Names in The Princess Diaries.
  • Smokey and the Bandit: Back in the CB radio days everyone used some kind of appropriate code-name (referred to as their "handle"): Bandit, Frog, Grave Robber, Silver Tongued Devil, etc. Jerry Reed's character was Cletus Snow, known better by his handle, Snowman.
  • Undercover Brother. Undercover Brother, Smart Brother, Conspiracy Brother, Sistah Girl, The Man. "Mr. Feather" might be one.
  • In Father Goose, Commander Frank Houghton is Big Bad Wolf, Ensign Stebbings is Bo Peep, the base at Kingsport is Briar Patch, and Walter Eckland is Mother Goose.
  • Die Hard 2:
    • Colonel Stuart's henchmen feature interesting code names.
    • In the beginning, when the mercenaries Baker and Thompson kill the church custodian, a memorable line is what Thompson says into his radio right afterwards: "This is Buckwheat. The clubhouse is open."
    • There's a deleted scene where O'Reilly (Robert Patrick) says, "This is Alice. We're down the rabbit hole."
    • The three army leaders all have bird-themed codenames: Major Grant is "Hatchling", Colonel Stuart is "Eagle Nest," and General Esperanza is "Falcon".
  • The code names for Pachycephalosaurus and Parasaurolophus are "Friar Tuck" and "Elvis" in The Lost World: Jurassic Park. (Although Roland only uses them because he can't pronounce their real names.)
  • A fan theory about the James Bond films is that the name "James Bond" is an alias passed down from one agent to the next. This neatly justifies The Nth Doctor.
  • In S Club: Seeing Double S Club 7 give themselves code names while investigating their clone counterparts, clearly for Rule of Funny. Jon is Bird Dog, Tina is Mr Black, Bradley is Big Pants, Hannah is Hedge Pig, Rachel is The Shopper and Jo is initially Essex Terrier but decides to change it to Tough Sirloin.
  • Played for laughs in Big Ass Spider! when the exterminator heroes uses these for absolutely no reason while communicating with his security-guard helper via walkie-talkie.
  • Starfighter pilots in Star Wars typically use color-number callsigns. Luke Skywalker, for example, is Red-5.
  • The CRM-114 used by the bomber squadron in Dr. Strangelove transmits an alphanumeric code which is then translated from a code book. They receive MGD135 which is Wing Attack Plan R, the "go" code to bomb Russian targets under the assumption that Washington has been incapacitated from an enemy military incursion (it hasn't—General Ripper initiated Wing Attack Plan R for purely Freudian reasons).

  • Most characters in The Alice Network who use false names use them literally all the time, making them Nom De Guerres rather than code names, but a handful of characters have actual code names.
    • For security reasons, Lili, Eve, and Violette never use Captain Cameron's real name when undercover, instead referring to him as "Uncle Edward" or "our shared uncle." Allenton reveals that another of Cameron’s code names is Evelyn.
    • Major Allenton doesn’t have an official code name, but Lili calls him Mustache when talking about him in case of eavesdroppers (and because she doesn’t like him very much).
  • In Medusa's Web, the secret organization that's trying to find and destroy the artifact called "the Medusa" use code names from Greek mythology. The two who appear most prominently in the narrative go by "Polydeuces" and "Perseus" (the latter being the name of the hero who slew the Medusa in the legend).
  • Color code names are used by the criminals in The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3: Mr. Blue, Mr. Gray, Mr. Brown and Mr. Green. (Note that in this case the color-coding is partially hidden by the fact that these four are also normal English/American last names.)
  • In Tales of the Astonishing Black Spark a superhero novel, this shows up frequently by Pantheus members. Subverted by Nikolas Tess, who seems to hate them, Save for him also being The Emancipator, of course.
  • The Seekers of Truth use code names to identify themselves, to avoid using real names rather than anonymity. Initially, they do it to give a name to the urban legends that start around them.
  • Quiller, the protagonist of the spy novels by Adam Hall. We never find out what his real name is, and he is always referred to by his cover name on missions.
  • The titular assassin from The Day of the Jackal. Even the people who hired him didn't know his name, and in the end, neither do we.
  • "Jack Ryan":
    • The presidential nicknames (as mentioned in the Real Life section, below) for the otherwise unnamed president early in the series is "Wrangler", while Jack Ryan's callsign is "Swordsman", for the gift he received at the end of The Sum of All Fears (his wife is "Surgeon", for her civilian job, and the children get names starting with "s").
    • Ryan's chosen Treasury Department Secretary is tagged with the callsign "Trader", for his civilian life job. It's joked by Ryan to make sure to pronounce it correctly... which is why the Secret Service probably wouldn't use that in Real Life.
    • The title of Rainbow Six is a reference to the callsign of the unit's leader- "Six" being the traditional number for a CO.
  • John le Carré:
    • He named the head of his MI6 equivalent "Control", who kept his real name secret.
    • Control's successor signs documents with "CC", for Chief of Circus, but does not attempt to keep his identity secret.
  • American Gods' The Men in Black Mr. Town, Mr. Stone, and Mr. Universe are thought to be code names, lampshaded by Sam who goes on about line of sight Theme Naming with Mr. Sidewalk, and Mr. Dirt.
  • In Wearing the Cape most superheroes have codenames that are descriptive of their power or just cool-sounding. Atlas gives Hope the temporary codename "Astra", which he says is Latin for “star". She keeps it, despite later finding out it's the plural form—"stars".
  • The Mark of the Lion: Hadassah adopts the name Rapha (Hebrew for “healer”) in book two because she is supposed to be dead. A Meaningful Name because Hadassah is working as a physician’s assistant, and quickly gains a reputation for her Healing Hands (which she attributes to the power of God).
  • In the Codename Omega stories, unsurprisingly, several characters have codenames: Nuke, Navy, Princess, Knight, Valiant, Victory and, of course, Omega. They have rules about when to use the codenames to prevent their real identities being revealed, even after some of them have been identified. Nuke is unique in that he's the only character whose real name is never revealed even to those on his team.
  • Shows up in The Stand, where Harold Lauder picks up the codename 'Nighthawk' or 'Hawk' during the clean-up of Boulder after the plague.
  • In Hidden Talents by David Lubar, many of the kids at Edgeview are known by their nicknames, which come across somewhat like this, especially when the protagonists start sneaking out. Names include: Lucky, because he's the unluckiest guy they've ever met; Torchie, because he has a reputation for being a pyromaniac; Flinch, because his precognition means he sees things coming before they hit; and Cheater, who can read minds and cheats unintentionally on every test he takes.
  • In The November Man, everyone working for Section R has got a code name, including the main character, Deveraux ("November").
  • In The Three Musketeers, the titular characters hide their identities behind the well-known noms de guerre of "Athos" (the Count de la Fère), "Porthos" (du Vallon) and "Aramis" (René d'Herblay). In the sequels, Porthos is very fond of the pompous title of Baron du Vallon de Bracieux de Pierrefonds, while Aramis becomes the Abbé/Chevalier d'Herblay, then the Bishop of Vannes and finally the Duke of Alameda.
  • The Wraiths in the X-Wing Series novels use numbers as a fighter squadron, but generally resort to codenames as an Intelligence operation. Their preferred nomenclature is [Word] Boy or Girl, using a keyword that's either physically distinctive or sums up their role, such as Face's "Poster Boy" (he was a child actor) or Huhunna's "Tree Girl" (as a Wookie, she's naturally arboreal). This pattern is probably a reference to an incident in the first novel where people keep calling Kell "Demolitions Boy" during a mission.
  • When he wasn't Rogue Leader, Luke Skywalker sometimes used the rather natural call name "Farmboy" in some of the other Star Wars Legends novels.
  • The Poster Children: At the beginning of their third block of training, all students at Maillardet's are asked to choose a moniker, a code name to be used in the field. Most students already have monikers picked out long before their third block, while new students are given a year to decide.
  • Citadel: The last name of Operatives and Trainees is often a direct allusion to their power. To name but a few: Drew Stasis can stop time, Hector Hive controls and duplicates himself, and Samantha Soar flies.
  • In Zeroes, each of the Zeroes has a one-word code name: Ethan is Scam, Riley is Flicker, Chizara is Crash, Nate is Bellwether, and Thibault is Anonymous. However, Nate is the only person who is really insistent on using them all the time.
  • 1-800-Where-R-U: In the second book, it's revealed the FBI uses "Cassandra" as a codename for Jess Mastriani due to her psychic abilities (which they're interested in having her use on their behalf). She is not amused, since she just wants them out of her life.
  • Villains' Code: Both heroes and villains use code names almost exclusively. The heroes are careful to vet potential names through focus groups to find the best one and make sure nothing is trademarked. The villains hold choosing your code name as a sacred right, but they have started making sure there's a basic approval process ever since a villain named himself "Johnny Three-Dicks."

    Live Action TV 
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003) turns the rather improbable given names of original characters such as Apollo, Starbuck, and Boomer into pilot callsigns. Other pilots include "Hot Dog," "Crashdown," "Duck," "Racetrack," and many, many more.
  • Zack and Cody of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody use code names when pulling off some of their more elaborate pranks. Usually Zack picks the code names and gives Cody an embarrassing one and himself a flattering one, such as "Better Looking Twin."
  • Colonel Hogan's callsign is "Goldilocks" in Hogan's Heroes, apparently because it was his callsign back when he was a fighter pilot. Fairytale-esque names are used for a number of targets and individuals.
  • The Unit:
    • Unit operators use colors in place of their real names to hid their identities (Mr. Black, Sgt. White, etc) and also have radio callsigns than range from cool (Snake Doctor, Hammerhead) to silly (Blue Iguana, Betty Blue).
    • If you're Airborne, Gerhardt's callsign ("Dirt Diver") is hilarious. note 
  • The titular Gladiators from the '90s sports game show all had suitably impressive-sounding handles. The black ones did tend to get the names like "Shadow", "Nightshade" and "Saracen", a fact pointed out by Jeremy Hardy on his Talk to the Nation radio series.
  • The agents of Sapphire and Steel are named after either precious gems, periodic elements or alloys. In Assignment 5, they recruit a bystander to help them, who asks for a 'code name' of his own, and is told he can be Brass.
  • 'Allo 'Allo!, zis is Night'awk...
  • And as 'Allo 'Allo! was based on Secret Army, codenames appear there too, most noticeably for Lisa: Code Name Yvette, as well as Albert, who adopts the Yvette moniker after Lisa is killed in a bombing raid. This is to throw the Germans off the scent as they would be looking for a woman.
  • As mentioned above, CONTROL agents in Get Smart use numbers. The 2008 film states that only field agents get numbers, while analysts and staff go by their names. In the original series, we learn that The Chief used to be Agent Q, since he was an agent before they switched to numbers.
  • Ugly Betty features this when they're trying to do a secret fashion show:
    Betty: Oh, can we have code names? I wanna be Princess Daisy.
    Henry: Oh, I'm Dragon! No, Eagle! Dragon, Black Dragon!
    Daniel: Guys! It's fine, do whatever you want... just as long as it's not Falcon, because that's mine.
  • The various spies in Alias all had vaguely-evocative codenames, which changed depending on which organization they worked for. Protagonist Sydney Brisow's for example, were "Blue Bird" (SD-6), "Freelancer" (C.I.A. double agent), "Mountaineer" (C.I.A.) and "Phoenix" (A.P.O.).
  • The actives in the Dollhouse have code names based on the NATO phonetic alphabet: Alpha, Echo, November, Sierra, Victor, and Whiskey. Notice that was the Los Angeles branch we're mostly familiar with. The Washington D.C. branch used the names of Greco-Roman gods.
  • The Monkees use funny code names in the episode “Art, For Monkees’ Sake” while breaking into an art museum overnight to switch back a stolen painting (“Mission: Ridiculous”). Each name refers to the places where each of the boys are from: "Manchester Marauder" (Davy), "Connecticut Counterspy" (Peter), "Los Angeles Leopard" (Micky), and the "(Modest but) Towering Texan" (Mike).
  • Married... with Children. When Al, Bud, and Jefferson devise a plot to blow up a scoreboard, they use the codenames 00 Shoe, Son of Frankenstein, and Gold Digger.
  • Used multiple times in Glee by Sue Sylvester to both (temporary) teammates and various Glee Club members. One of the more common code names being "Porcelain" for Kurt Hummel.
  • Spoofed in a Hope & Faith episode where Faith and Hope have jobs as lunch ladies at Sydney's school. When Faith gets convinced Sydney is up to no good, she assigns her and Hope the code names "Hot Lunch" and "Tater Tot" when they investigate.
  • In Smallville, Green Arrow assigns code names to the other heroes when he teams up with them. While most are their eventual superhero names like "Impulse", "Cyborg", and "Aquaman", he calls Clark Kent "Boyscout". Similar to Wolverine above, Clark thinks this practice is bizarre. Clark eventually starts calling himself "The Blur" because he protects his secret identity by staying in the shadows and moving at super speed so he can only be seen by the public as a blur. He only starts calling himself "Superman" in the final episodes.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer ridicules the Scoobies when she returns after a long absence to find them tooled up with radios and using callsigns like "Nighthawk". She is similarly bemused to find that secret agent Riley Finn's callsign is Lilac One.
  • In an episode of NCIS, the team has to do some covert ops to clear Ziva of an assassination she's accused of. When Tony is holding a secret huddle, explaining that this could cost them their jobs, Jimmy says he wants a codename, though they don't really use it throughout the episode so it's unclear if it's supposed to protect his identity or if he just wants to get into the spirit.
    Tony: Palmer, what do you think about "Blacklung?"
    Jimmy: *looking terrified* It's a terrible way to die.
    Tony: No, as your codename.
    Jimmy: *relieved* Oh. Blacklung. I like it.
  • The West Wing has the Secret Service codenames for various members of the Bartlet administration. Bartlet is "Eagle", befitting the President of the United States, his daughter Zoey is "Bookbag" while his young grandson is "Tonka". CJ Cregg is less than amused to learn hers is "Flamingo" while Sam Seaborn is perfectly happy with his codename "Princeton".
  • Parks and Recreation has Andy provide security code names for Leslie's campaign team, based (in general) on his sexual history or interest in each person:
    Andy: From now on, we will be using code names. You can address me as "Eagle One". Ann, code name: "Been There, Done That".
    Ann: [looks offended]
    Andy: April is: "Currently Doing That".
    April: [high-fives him]
    Andy: Donna is: "It Happened Once in a Dream".
    Donna: [shrugs]
    Andy: Chris, code name: "If I Had To Pick a Dude".
    Chris: [looks honored]
    Andy: Ben is: "Eagle Two."
    Ben: Oh, thank God.
  • Daredevil (2015): One of the rules corrupt FBI agents doing dirty operations for Wilson Fisk have is that they only refer to him by his codename: "Kingpin".
  • BothVeronica Mars and her father, Keith, use this trope a lot due to them being seasoned PI's.
    • Often her aliases invoke POP Culture references or tie into the episode's plot. For example, she introduces herself as "Hester" when speaking to a local televangelist.
      • That same episode Keith introduced the two of them as Drew Carter, "and my assistant Nancy." Played for Drama when one of the people Keith was speaking to recognized Veronica as "Hester".
  • The Umbrella Academy has the main seven characters, most of whom have "normal" names alongside the numbers they were initially given by their adoptive father (with the exception of Number Five). There's also the Handler, who seems to have no other name.

  • The Concept Album Scenes From A Memory has "the Sleeper", Julian (who is somewhat lazy), and "the Miracle", his brother Edward, a senator. One interpretation is that Victoria's Codename is "Metropolis". Technically, these are nicknames.
  • The Protomen all have code names, such as "Panther" and "Heath Who Hath No Name."

    Myths & Religion 


    Puppet Shows 
  • The original Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons used these quite extensively, along with uniforms Colour-Coded for Your Convenience. The reboot downplayed it a bit.
    • Spectrum agents use colours as codenames, usually associated with the word "Captain" (as in the titular hero, Captain Blue, Captain Ochre, Captain Scarlet, etc.), but sometimes with some other honorific, for example Lieutenant Green and Doctor Fawn.
    • Also, the female fighter pilots had a (mostly) musical motif. Their numbers included Destiny, Symphony, Melody, Rhapsody and Harmony.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Aberrant, superheroes of course chose their own code names. However, a secret organization also assigned entirely separate code names to their agents. One, who is basically Batman (but with more skills) in the body of a nebbishy, middle-aged maintenance man, is nicknamed Renaissance Man. He doesn't approve of this, because code names aren't supposed to give hints to the agent's identity.
  • Shadowrun:
    • Shadowrunners seldom use their real names, instead preferring a nickname. One of the recommended ways to flesh out your backstory is to come up with an explanation of how you got the name.
    • One early piece of Shadowrun short fiction Lampshaded the use of call signs, having a merc captain assign code names that were mostly for laughs. His own call sign was "Georgia Peach", and the runners who hired his squad remark about how it's a dippy name for a male ork, even one with a southern accent.
  • In Cosmopol, it's common for player characters to be known by a street name or callsign in the context of their (often illegal) "night job", and if the character is a hacker who belongs to the Zero One, callsigns are always used instead of real names.
  • Spycraft also encourages this for your spies. And it can be even more fun when you refuse to use fake codenames when in front of other spies who know you're spies!
  • Mage: The Awakening has most mages adopting "shadow names" among their own culture, given that referring to each other by their real names often opens them up to attack. As names have power, no matter how true they are, the shadow name usually matches the character's outlook and personality, and may serve to guide how they develop amongst the Awakened.
  • Common in literature and video games derived from BattleTech—Inner Sphere pilots are often given callsigns in the tradition of fighter pilots. Examples include Spectre, Damocles 1, and Black Knight from a variety of the MechWarrior video games. The various Mercenaries sub-genre of games give all your hireable pilots callsigns, as does both MechCommander games. Clan pilots are curiously exempt from the practice. The most interesting example—blurring the lines heavily between this trope and Nom de Guerre—is the 17th Recon Regiment, Camacho's Caballeros. Everyone is given a nickname or callsign, and while many people do use these as their names in day to day life (like William "Cowboy" Payson or Richard "Montezuma" Gallegos), not every does. They also have a habit of giving people rather appropriate nicknames in Spanish, making their communications even harder to follow for those who are not versed in the language.

  • The Mrs. Hawking play series: Subverted. For all that Mrs. Hawking is basically a superhero whose real identity is a secret— and in fact has personal reasons to not feel connected to her legal name —she doesn't seem to have a different name, code or otherwise, as an alternative.
  • Oslo takes place during the 1993 Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations in the clandestine "Oslo Channel" that led to the Oslo I Accords. For the safety and secrecy of the negotiators and the process both, code names are assigned to key players for use while discussing the negotiations over the phone:
    • Israel is referred to as "the little country," and important political figures are designated "the son," "the father," and "the grandfather."
    • Palestine (or the Palestinian Liberation Organization, at least) is dubbed "the land across the sea." Finance Minister and Negotiator Ahmed Qurie is dubbed "pontoffel" (Yiddish for slipper).

  • Everyone in G.I. Joe had a codename, widely ranging in silliness — from Roadblock and Wild Bill to Snowjob and Ice Cream Soldier.

    Video Games 
  • Most of the groups in the Metal Gear franchise had some convention for their operative's codenames.
    • FOXHOUND used the formula (Descriptive Word) + (Animal Name) — for instance, Solid Snake or Sniper Wolf. The Cobra Unit from Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater used emotions that were felt by the members on the battlefield — for example, The Pain, The Sorrow, and The Fury. "The End" is a bit more esoteric, but comes from the total sense of oblivion he felt when on the hunt. Sometimes, the codenames were cool. Sometimes, not so much. Compare such names as "Psycho Mantis" or "Vamp" to such names as "Fatman" or "Revolver Ocelot". (Just don't do it to their faces...) Every last one is a dead giveaway as to that character's skill and personality, but serves the purpose of obscuring the individual's real name.
    • Originally, the codenames for the Foxhound Unit were designed in such a way that the animal represented, obtusely, your rank, while the adjective represented, also obtusely, your particular style or skill. This was then completely subverted in Metal Gear Solid, but there are still some references, even as late as Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, of Fox being the highest possible ranking/codename for a Foxhound operative. Snake is, oddly enough, somewhere near the bottom (in the original Metal Gear 1, Solid Snake was a rookie).
    • In Metal Gear 2, none of the heroic-aligned characters use codenames besides Snake himself, and it is referenced that a couple of them formerly had codenames they have discarded. This is supposed to be a change that Campbell made after he took over. In Metal Gear Solid, Snake reacts with surprise that the members of FOXHOUND are now using codenames, which was a practice reintroduced by Liquid Snake.
    • In Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, most of the code names switched to one word nouns or adjectives such as the aforementioned "Vamp" and "Fatman", plus Solidus Snake and "Iroquois Pliskin" (what Solid Snake introduces himself to Raiden as, which itself is a reference to the protagonist of the film ''Escape from New York", whom Solid Snake is based off of).
    • In Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, the Beauty and the Beast unit fits this collectively and individually. The names are amalgamations of the emotions (in verb form) of the Cobra Unit and the animal-based nouns of MGS1's Foxhound. For example, "The Sorrow" + "Sniper Wolf" = Crying Wolf.
    • Characters aren't usually referred to by their full codenames; Solid Snake is almost always called "Snake", Revolver Ocelot is just "Ocelot", and so on. So they actually have nicknames of their codenames.
  • Deus Ex with J.C. Denton and Paul Denton: -Welcome to the coalition JC, might as well start using your code name.
  • The Wing Commander series makes use of callsigns for pilots, most of which sound really cool: Maniac, Angel, Bossman, Knight,

Video Example(s):


Class 3-E's Codenames

As one of Koro-sensei's lessons, Class 3-E conducts a mock-assassination of Karasuma ("Da Densest") with only the use of embarrassing codenames being allowed. The feminine-looking Nagisa is "Gender", the less than busty Kayano is "Forever Flat" and the serial playboy Maehara is "Womanizing Scumbag" just to name a few.

How well does it match the trope?

4.89 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / CodeName

Media sources:

Main / CodeName